A good friend, Don, remarked that there has been a string of bookshop closures in Manila lately. Don works in the US, so I was quite surprised that this observation would be coming from him and not from one who's actually living and working in Manila (i.e., me). It got me to thinking though -- yes, this observation is unfortunately true.
Yesterday, during lunch time, I decided to check out the bookstore near the office only to find it's closed down. And the bookstore that our book club has been terribly fond of, Libreria, closed its doors finally last month. Ayayay! Is it the end of the world as we know it?
And if bookstores aren't closing down, they're downsizing. The Powerbooks in Megamall moved to a location that's just about a fifth of its original floor area. Its flagship branch in Greenbelt, which originally had 2 floors, now just has 1, with the other floor now carrying office supplies. The area of Fully Booked in SM North was halved recently. The one in Rockwell was also downsized several months back. And what's the deal with the branch in Greenbelt? Are they downsizing as well?
So Don asked me: Are people just not buying books anymore? Is readership down?
Well, yes, I think people have not been buying books lately, at least not physical books anyway. In our book club, for instance, more and more people have the books of the month loaded to their ebook readers. (Which made me ponder if the bookmarks that the moderators are giving away are moot.)
So I don't think that readership is down. If anything, I believe that people are reading more stuff now than ever. I would like to think that people still get legal copies (e.g., from Amazon, B&N). But with all those file-sharing sites, they're just not shelling out cash anymore. Why spend your hard-earned money on something when you can get it for free, no? Sad, really.
One day, maybe I will get the Kindle or Nook or whatever. But for now, I'll do business with the few bookstores that we have. I don't want these places to go the same way that record bars have. I love them bookstores, and I feel that they've loved me back.